|Graphic: University of Michigan|
Current forest management policies continue to prioritize fire suppression over using fire as a tool to reduce future wildfire risk. To cure this "socioecological pathology," what's needed is a new approach that allows society to break out of "a destabilizing feedback loop in which wildfire risk increases despite policies and practices designed to reduce it," said University of Michigan researcher Paige Fischer.
Two of the potentially useful tools are social network analysis and scenario planning.
Social network analysis looks at the patterns of interaction within a network of actors. Fischer and her co-authors suggest that communications, coordination and joint problem-solving related to wildfires could be improved if land-management agencies expanded their social networks to include greater interaction with conservation groups and scientists from academic institutions.
Scenario planning is a tool that can be used to look at the possible outcomes of various management policies. Model scenarios allow land managers, planners and others to test alternative futures that could include "using fire to a greater degree as a management tool on public and private lands, shifting responsibility for fire protection from agencies to homeowners, or zoning land use and development based on fire risk," the authors wrote.